By Leslie Barker
The Dallas Morning News
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) An awesome photograph of a Dallas area mom multitasking during a football game first appeared online in a Dallas Morning News tweet Friday night. It soon went viral.
The Dallas Morning News
If your Friday night football attire is a baby on your chest, a preschooler on your back, a camera in one hand and a bottle in the other, you might consider yourself a bit of a Superwoman — especially if you also teach full-time, cook just about every night and own a photography business.
But for Melissa Wardlow of Grand Prairie, this is just her life.
“I throw the kids on and away we go,” says Wardlow, whose husband Josh is a football coach at Lake Ridge High School in Mansfield. “I started taking pictures before I had kids, and I was on the sideline when I was pregnant. It didn’t matter; I was on the sideline.”
Last Friday was just a typical night when photographer John F. Rhodes shot this photo of the multitasking mother during the game he was shooting for The Dallas Morning News. It first appeared online in a Dallas Morning News tweet Friday night and went viral in a Facebook post.
But because Wardlow isn’t on Facebook or Twitter, she didn’t know that (at last count) the photo has been shared more than 3,000 times, generated 7.8 thousand “likes” and garnered 476 comments (not counting replies to many of them).
What she did know is that “my phone has been blowing up since Saturday.” Her friends called her and texted her, “saying I was famous and basically [the photo] had gone viral,” says Wardlow, 32.
She says all this quite calmly, much as she looks in this photo. Not stressed. Not harried. Not frantic. Indeed, it’s that calmness, that levelheadedness, that unflappable confidence that seems to awe and strike a chord with many of those who commented on Facebook.
From one: “I have done this, taking toddler and baby to the grocery store, etc., because it is the ONLY way to make sure that I can keep them both safe and not have toddler run away, fall, get into trouble, have someone snatch him, etc. It’s so much easier to tandem carry. I haven’t taken nice photos with a heavy camera while doing that, though … Props to her!! This is awesome.”
And another: “Rock it, Mama!”
And another: “She’s awesome and should be applauded. Women tended to the fields and went about their daily routines with children strapped to them since the beginning of mankind.”
A slight aside here: Wardlow is a farm girl from Missouri, who grew up with four older brothers and a work ethic she brought with her to Texas nine years ago.
“We always worked hard,” she says. “We always had to do our work around the farm before we could go in and have dinner and get ready for the next day.”
Even away from the farm, her family’s days begin early. She and Josh are out the door by 7 with the kids, taking one to a babysitter, one to a daycare school. Most nights she cooks. But on Friday after leaving her school in Grand Prairie, “I go home, get my bags, get everything packed for the game, pick up the kids, eat dinner on the way to the game and it’s game time.”
She has it down to a science: “The baby goes on first. My 3-year-old stands behind me. He puts his leg through the strap and it’s like putting on a backpack.”
Asked why she doesn’t use a babysitter, as some comments have (and not always kindly) asked, she laughs a little. “We don’t have any family here, so it’s hard for me to rely on people. At least if they’re with me, they’re not in the stands running around being crazy. It’s just easier.”
Wardlow calls what she’s doing “multitasking to the extreme.” (She’s also strong; saying that though she doesn’t work out, she’s blessed with “good genetics” and she never sits down.) But Superwoman? Nah.
“I know my kids like being on the sidelines,” she says. “My 3-year-old likes fist-bumping. Everybody wants to talk to the crazy lady with the children: referees, line judges. They all do.”
She hasn’t read the Facebook comments questioning her parenting style. “What’s to say?” she says in that calm voice.
“Everybody is different. My children are my priority; whatever I have to do [I do] to make sure they’re well taken care of.”